CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 78 homes near a town centre beauty spot have been given the go ahead tonight.

Councillors approved the proposals to build the homes off River View, in Witham, with a majority of eight at a meeting this evening. (March 19)

Planning committee members acknowledged the huge amount of opposition to the plans which saw residents send around 640 objections to Braintree Council.

But members in favour said concerns over the impact on roads were unfounded by Essex Highways and said the land has previously been allocated for building.

Councillor Gabrielle Spray said: “This is a relatively modest development of 78 homes.

"I know residents don’t agree with that but it is relatively modest and it’s on an allocated site and I think a great deal of work has gone into the placement and the impact towards ecology and the environment by the developer to try and make this as acceptable as possible.

“Once it’s built and developed I think residents may find the impact is not as severe as they think.

“Much of the area of wildlife is not going to be disturbed at all as part of this development. There are going to be improvements in a number of places.”

“I do think there are residents in other parts of the district who will look at this and say ‘Well you know, we have had to accept quite a lot of development on unallocated sites’.”

Developer Bellway is behind the plans which will see a mixture of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes built on Gimsons.

David Mann, who also backed the plan, said: “Many of the objections mentioned traffic and road safety but Essex County Highways is the statutory consultee and we have to take notice of what they say.

“They don’t object to the application on highways or road safety grounds at all and they see very little need for mitigation.

“A lot were opposed to the principle of housing on this site but we can’t overlook the fact this an allocated site – it’s been through the local plan process.”

Patrick Horner, who voted against, said 40 homes would be more appropriate for the land as suggested by officers in 2016.

Lady Patricia Newton, added: “The site is within the town development boundary. “It sits at the top of our spacial hierarchy and it’s allocated in our draft local plan. It’s very difficult to see how one might refuse consent.”